The Social Media Reality Illusion

Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash

As the world has become more connected, we’ve paradoxically become more isolated. We text more often than we call. We use instant messenger to “keep in touch.” We interact through screens more than we do face to face. We treat the internet as a viable substitute for human contact when it’s not.

Even when we sit face to face, we take out our phones and Instagram our moments. We spend more time documenting our lives than we do living them. We are “alone together.” And if we documented more honestly, nobody would find anything we do all that interesting or glamorous. Nobody lets us know they’re taking a shit in a status update. But, the billions of users on Facebook do every day.

We sacrifice the time we have with people who should matter most to us to become spectators in the lives of people we’ve never met. It costs us in terms of mental health issues, unhealthy levels of self-obsession, and empathy.

If you pissed on someone’s lawn, they would call the police. But on the internet people behave in ways they never would in person. They send vicious emails, troll people and attack public figures. I’d argue that being a celebrity in a world of social media sucks more than anytime in history. Just watch people on Kimmel read mean celebrity tweets.

If you wish you were internet famous, be careful what you wish for.

In many conversations, Seth Godin references a book called Understanding Comics. He talks about what happens between the panels. We don’t see what happens between the panels of status updates and Instagram pictures.

If you assume the average Facebook user spends an hour a day on Facebook, you are basing everything you know about someone on 1/24 of their lives. People read someone’s book, see someone give a talk and say things like “I love this person.” But they don’t even know that person. You’re judging the entirety of someone’s personality based on a tiny fraction of who they are. That inspiring speaker could be a real pain in the ass if you got to know him. I’m sure someone thinks I’m a pain in the ass.

The parts of our lives that are publicly on display are a manufactured illusion to build our brands and grow our businesses.

But who is someone behind the scenes? Maybe we’re more offensive than people think. I’ve said things to my close friends that would be a PR crisis if I said them on the air or the internet. Ask any of my close friends, and they will attest to this.

Maybe we’re not as perfect was we portray ourselves to be. At the beginning of this year, Danielle Laporte wrote an article on Medium and said the following:

There’s no sugar coating the fact that 2018 was the worst year of my life. Only a few friends know the extent of what was happening, because every area of my personal existence, creative-romantic-spiritual-physical-health was pulled into the undertow. It was a WTF Bootcamp of one challenge after the other. And… it was the most profoundly healing, fortifying, and transformational passage of my life. Turns out you can get a great makeover in hell.

I was sitting face to face with her when I interviewed her for Creative Live. I had no idea what she was dealing with. On the surface I had a book come out. Behind the scenes, I was falling apart. I was in a downward spiral.

During his interview on the Unmistakable Creative, Ryder Caroll said we’re so connected to the world around us that we’re losing touch with the world within us.

We’re also losing touch with each other. Social connection is essential to our well being. We’re biologically hardwired for it. When Brian Koehn why I seemed happier, I told him it was spending more time with my family. It was Sunday Dinners with my parent. It was the trip we took to India.

Last year I was disappointed that my birthday wasn’t some big 40th blowout. When my parents asked what I wanted to do, I said: “I want to hang out with you guys, my sister, brother in law and a few of the most important people in my life.”

It was the best birthday ever. People endured the hell of Southern California traffic to have dinner with me. Fortunately, you’ll never leave my parents house hungry. As my friend Neha says of her mom “I may be biased, but my mom is the best cook in the world.” I’d say the same for my mom and most Indian mothers.

We need to experience the other 23/24 parts of each other’s reality…. to sit face to face over long slow dinners, to have meaningful conversations between shots of vodka until we’re the last people in the bar, to hug each other, look at each other. We need to stop talking on social media and listen to each other in person.

That’s my real motivation for putting on a conference. There’s only so deep our relationships can go from behind a screen. The most important moments take place off camera, off social media and when our lives aren’t on display for public consumption. Hopefully, you’ll join us in April of 2020 where I plan to ban smartphones, you won’t be allowed to upload pics to Instagram, and you’ll actually go deep with the people who are there.


Originally published at https://unmistakablecreative.com.